We must not exaggerate the dangers of cycling

Jeremy Vine's article only reinforced a sense of conflict, and didn't include safety facts

Share
Related Topics

I hesitate to wade into a debate about cycling because few debates have the potential to be as tiresome or polluted with counter-productive hot air, but I think it’s worth responding to Jeremy Vine’s article today in the Daily Mail.

First, we should note that writers don’t write headlines or have a say about the layout of a page in print. Our words can also be edited.

The headline on page 15 of the Mail today: Why do so many drivers want to KILL ME! (“KILL ME” is produced in a huge typeface).

Below this, Vine writes about cycling in London over the past two years, recently while wearing a helmet-cam to record incidents or near misses. Judging by his words, it’s a wonder he’s still alive and in possession of four limbs.

For example: 

-“Every morning when I leave the house, my wife says farewell in the manner of Japanese women who waved off pilot husbands in World War II.

-“If nothing else, cycling in a major British city reminds you to make a will and tell your mum you love her.

-“In the morning, I dress like a U.S. Navy Seal on his way to shoot Bin Laden. I am kitted out like a soldier and sometimes behave like one because London’s roads are a battlefield and my life is at stake.

-“I feel like I have become involved in a war that puts my life at risk every time I strap on my helmet.”

Putting to one side the mixed military metaphor, and the temptation of any writer to exaggerate, I wonder what Vine wanted to achieve here. I think that a prominent cyclist with recourse to a full page in a national newspaper ought to set out to make cycling safer and more pleasant. Perhaps Vine hopes to do this by shocking all road users. Instead, I fear, he only reinforces an exaggerated sense of conflict and danger.

Vine could have included a few safety stats, which reveal how safe cycling is. When I suggested this to him on Twitter this morning, he replied: “There is only one safety stat: in two years cycling I have been in one collision, emerged unhurt.” Why not include that in the article?

This isn’t a huge deal and we shouldn’t be surprised that newspapers like publishing controversial articles. But that’s the problem, because little things like this reinforce misleading impressions about roads. In more than six years of very regular cycling in and out of London, I have never been hit by a vehicle nor suffered any injury more serious than a strained shoulder.  I can count the number of genuine near misses I’ve experienced in that time on one hand. I think I’ve had more as a pedestrian.

This isn’t to tempt fate or big myself up, or to question Vine’s experience or right to write about it, but I do think that to paint the picture he has today without the required balance risks fuelling conflict, making the roads less safe for himself and everyone else. Worst, perhaps, he risks putting off any would-be cyclist who might read his words about the horror of it all. Which would be a shame. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker